Current Students

GPGG Students at the Annual GPGG Open House

GPGG Students at the Annual GPGG Open House

The students of the GPGG are a diverse group.  Each has a strong background in research and helps support the strong community and learning environment.

Dana Lau Corona (Waxman Lab)
Dana is a third year PhD student in Dr. David Waxman’s lab. Her research project focuses on the hormonal regulation of sex-differential gene expression in the liver. These sex-biased gene profiles have been linked to clinically relevant sex differences in drug metabolism and cardiovascular disease risk.  She uses mouse models and next-generation sequencing (RNA-seq, ChIP-seq and DNAse-seq) to elucidate the transcriptional and epigenetic networks that dictate sex-differential gene expression in the liver.

Keri Dame (Ikonomou Lab)
Keri is a second year GPGG PhD student with the Ikonomou laboratory in the Pulmonary Center / Center for Regenerative Medicine (CReM).  Her main research revolves around lung development – in vivo processes as well as in vitro specification of lung progenitors from mouse stem cells using directed differentiation.

Carly Garrison (Spira Lab)
Carly’s research focuses on the regulatory role of microRNAs in lung diseases, specifically in IPF and lung cancer. In IPF we have identified microRNA isomirs that have the ability to target genes outside of those targeted by the canonical form of the microRNA, highlighting the diverse nature of microRNAs and microRNA editing. In lung cancer, there are two distinct projects, one on a previously identified microRNA and another on a never smoker lung adenocarcinoma specific microRNA. miR-4423 is a microRNA that was previously identified in the Spira/Lenburg lab as being able to suppress lung cancer and as a regulator of normal lung airway epithelium. Current research is being performed to uncover the mechanism of action with which miR-4423 modulates these phenotypes. In never smoker lung adenocarcinoma we have identified a microRNA that is only differentially expressed in never smokers and has the potential to regulate an extensive number of mRNA by direct and indirect actions. Our work on identifying microRNAs in lung disease may eventually lead to novel therapeutic microRNA targets, an area that is quickly gaining momentum.

Barry Horne (Bonegio Lab)
Barry is a second year GPGG PhD student in the Bonegio laboratory. His long-term interest is in performing translational research that focuses on the genetic causes of autoimmune diseases, with an ultimate goal of working towards better treatments and/or cures for autoimmune disorders such as Lupus and Anti-Phospholipid Syndrome (APS). The Bonegio lab is investigating various potential genetic causes and therapies for Lupus – particularly in the context of Lupus Nephritis. Barry is currently examining the possible roles of several different genes in “Immune-Complex Glomerulo-Nephritis” (IC-GN) induced proteinuria in mice. The goal of this research is to discover and define the genetic differences and signaling pathway(s) that lead to that disease state, in order to then develop ways to target them therapeutically in humans.

Andrew Hoss (Myers Lab)
Andy is a 4th year graduate student in Dr. Richard Myer’s lab. Andy studies the genetics of neurodegenerative diseases, in particular, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. In his dissertation, he will compare the gene expression patterns of diseased and non-diseased human brain using next-generation sequencing of large and small RNAs, to attempt to understand the molecular mechanisms that may be involved in Huntington’s disease pathology and progression.

Sarah Kleinsorge (Navarro Lab)
Sarah’s research focuses on the role of cell polarity in both oocyte fate specification and programmed cell death in the Drosophila ovary.  As an organism develops two major processes need to occur in order to specify and organize tissue. The first is the establishment of cell polarity, which drives cell fate specification and stem cell differentiation. The second is the initiation of programmed cell death, to remodel tissue and clear damaged or diseased cells from the body.

Elyse Kozlowski (Jones Lab)
Elyse’s research focuses on how immune cells can post-transcriptionally regulate cytokine expression in response to bacterial pneumonia. It centers on how certain enzymes called TUTases (such as Zcchc11 and Zcchc6) can regulate gene expression by modifying microRNAs, which prevents them from binding to their target mRNAs. Uridylation of microRNAs may be one way immune cells can fine tune cytokine expression to promote host defense while preventing tissue injury during pneumonia.

Rebecca Kusko (Spira Lab)
Becky’s clinical translational research focuses on using RNA sequencing to study transcriptomic alterations in COPD, IPF, and never smoker lung cancer.  In COPD and IPF we have discovered a set of differentially expressed genes, and the miRNA network that regulates these changes in gene expression.  One of the miRNAs in this network when overexpressed in epithelial cells or fibroblasts recapitulates the gene expression signature of IPF, suggesting that it may be a driver of disease.  In Adenocarcinoma, we have identified a set of genes which are uniquely changed in the never smoker tumor as compared to the ever smoker tumor, as well as the miRNA network which may drive these changes.  Our discoveries in COPD, IPF, and lung cancer may eventually lead to novel therapeutic targets.

Akshaya Ramesh (Kepler Lab)
Akshaya is a 3rd year graduate student in the Genetics and Genomics program and works in Dr. Thomas Kepler’s lab in the Department of Microbiology. Her research primarily focuses on understanding the immunogenetics of rhesus macaque monkeys, which are currently used as animal models for HIV research. As part of her thesis project she will work on assembling the whole genome (WGS) of the rhesus macaque from one monkey and generate high-resolution immunoglobulin loci sequence information from nine additional macaques. This information will serve as a valuable reference while studying potential vaccine candidates to identify mutations that make them especially potent. In addition to this, the WGS of the rhesus macaque will open a new suite of tools in macaque biology and have far reaching impacts considering that these monkeys are used extensively in biomedical research.

Hila Milo Rasouly (Lu Lab)
Hila’s primary research interests in the laboratory of my PhD study focus on the genetics of kidney development and congenital anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract (CAKUT), a common birth defect in children. In the frame of my PhD research, I am combining human genetics, mouse molecular genetics, in vivo and in vitro technologies to identify novel causative and susceptibility genes for CAKUT. In one of my thesis research projects, I am using a mouse model to study the molecular function of a CAKUT candidate gene in kidney development and the pathogenesis of a specific genetic syndrome with a CAKUT phenotype. In another project, I am using microarray analysis to understand the kidney phenotype of a mouse model with a knockout mutation in a gene causing CAKUT. Finally, I am using whole exome sequencing technology on a human genetic project to identify the causative gene leading to CAKUT in a family that I helped to recruit. I received M.Sc. degree and a B.Sc. degree in Biology from the Tel Aviv University, Israel.

Chen Khuan Wong (Thiagalingam Lab)
Chen’s research focuses on studying the association between Smad4 defect and metastasis, a major cause of cancer death, in colon cancer.  Smad4 is a tumor suppressor which localizes to 18q, a chromosomal region with frequent loss of heterozygosity in advanced disease stage.  Smad4 plays a central role in the TGF-beta antigrowth signaling pathway and its loss of function is associated withpoor prognosis and chemotherapeutic resistance in colon cancer.  Currently, I am working on identifying Smad4 interacting transcription factors and cofactors, which may serve as targets that become alternatively inactivated, culminating in loss of metastasis suppression.